This week’s lecture is based on a constituency that I have a lot of familiarity with, which is International students. My experience as a student services’ professional includes seven years of working directly with International students, which was primarily engaging international students that were enrolled at the institution. I found this to be an extremely rewarding experience, and am looking forward to writing this journal. The one thing I found fascinating with international students is their college/university decision making. As Quaye and Harper (2015) mention, prestige is a main driver in choosing to study in the U.S. given the high concentration of highly-ranked universities in the United States. From an institution’s perspective, their interest to recruit international students comes partly from the additional revenue they bring in. Canada has a similar situation to the United States in that government funding for public institutions has been on the decline, and it has been left to the institutions or their systems to be creative in generating revenue. Even if increased revenue is an objective, we cannot forget about the student and the challenges they face, or the cultural knowledge and diversity perspectives this constituency brings in. There is such a benefit to having international students on campus, they not only build diversity on campus, they create learning opportunities for domestic students which will ultimately help them become better global citizens.
International students need to be supported. Quaye and Harper (2015) mention a number of challenges international students face upon arrival, and as an institution, we need to continually find ways of engaging these students from the time they arrive. The challenges continue into their classroom. Students enrolling without a strong command of the English language will inherently struggle understanding lectures and communicating with classmates. This can create a negative learning environment, particularly if domestic students are not wanting to be in groups with international students due to poor language skills. As chapter three mentions, this leads to social isolation and loneliness outside of the classroom. Depending on the size and structure of the institution, either student services or the international office need to create programming for these students that continues on after orientation. Engagement opportunities could include international clubs, tourist-style activities, and conversation groups. Most importantly, a safe place for international students to go to, such as an “International lounge” where students feel comfortable and can meet and speak to fellow international students is a support function that cannot be overlooked. A key message from this week’s presentation is the role of student affairs in creating awareness of the services available. International students come from different countries where in some cases, there are either no student affairs’ departments, or their expectations on the services are different than domestic students.
One of the key learning points this is the different characteristics between ethnicities that need to be taken into account when creating support programming for international students. Through research from Ramburuth and McCormick (2001), it was mentioned that Asian students rely more on group interaction in their studies, which I agree with. Last summer, I conducted focus groups with international students to discuss a number of items, including learning styles. The focus groups were predominantly Asian students, and they indicated to me that their learning preference was group work. The other key learning point from chapter three was Heggins and Jackson’s (2003) research on Asian students’ underutilization of counseling and other support services. I am in agreement with this suggestion as well. A large population of our institution’s international student body is that of Asian students, and it has been extremely challenging to have them seek out necessary support services. It has taken a lot of effort to visit classrooms to build engagement with this student body, continuous communication on support services available, and instructor referrals to have Asian international students seek out support services. As the textbook mentions, getting to know international students personally is a first step towards increasing their openness and comfort level in accessing services.
Another key learning point is the lack of existing literature on how international students have been examined. As I mentioned earlier with the research on Asian students’ preference on group learning, there is a limitation in looking at student experiences by their region or country of origin. Depending on the international student breakdown, this research has importance when providing faculty with professional development on teaching styles, as well as the type of programming offered to these students. Wilson and Constantine (2003) report that Latin American international students have greater psychological distress than Asian students. This type of research becomes extremely important in developing the types of strategies on communication of available resources. Institutions that have a sizeable Latin America international student population would be wise to communicate and educate this demographic about counselling, peer networks, and financial aid on a regular basis.
Neo-racism is a concept that was mentioned in both this week’s lecture and presentation. If we look at Middle Eastern students, there are negative assumptions about these students, given the post-911 era that we live in. Student affairs leaders must champion educating the campus community on these negative assumptions, as well as providing the necessary safe place and support should these students feel they are being discriminated against.
This week’s picture is from Vancouver, Canada, and is the gateway to our city’s Chinatown, an appropriate photo given this week’s constituency. In Vancouver, we feel we are very welcoming to international students, but there is always ways of improving upon the programming that we offer at our institutions.